Friday, September 29, 2023

Just Like Home (Sarah Gailey)

Ahh, it's almost October -- my favorite time of year. As soon as Labor Day is over, my thoughts turn to spooky reads. I thought that's what I was getting with Sarah Gailey's Just Like Home. Instead, I got a book that seriously missed its mark by the end.

One day, Vera receives a phone call from her mother, Daphne. Daphne is dying and wants Vera to come home to sort things out in the Crowder House. The problem -- beside the fact that Vera has long been estranged from Daphne -- is that this is a house where her serial killer father murdered his victims. 

This is all that happens for the first 2/3 of the book, and actually, I found this part really interesting and suspenseful. It's the ending that's a bit of a mess, and I think I figured out why. At least for me, even the most far-fetched horror book has to have some semblance of reality in it. Think of Stephen King's It -- the way it is written, I truly believe that a deranged clown could be in the sewer. But by the end, Just Like Home goes beyond far-fetched into the ridiculous, which ruined the book for me.


Monday, September 25, 2023

In Sardinia: An Unexpected Journey in Italy (Jeff Biggers)

The Mediterranean island of Sardinia is one of the more unique places in all of Europe with a fusion of Spanish, Catalan, French, Italian, Phoenician, and North African influences having blended into the island over its rich history. While Sardinia has been a part of Italy since the country’s unification in 1861, it maintains a very distinct identity much like its Sicilian neighbors to their southeast. 

Author Jeff Biggers embarked on a long journey around the island to experience its cuisine, its literature, and its history. In Sardinia: An Unexpected Journey In Italy is the culmination of those travels. What I appreciated the most about In Sardinia is that the chapters are short and generally focused, and I felt that the book took me on both a geographic journey around the island and a journey through time. While I was a bit disappointed in the lack of pictures within the book, Biggers’s descriptive writing was a very apt substitute and helped my imagination capture what Biggers experienced in his time in Sardinia.

The author’s storytelling and ability to paint the picture of a beautiful island has helped ensure that In Sardinia will not be the last travel book I read anytime soon.


Saturday, September 2, 2023

Just Like Mother (Anne Heltzel)

The creepy doll face on Anne Heltzel's Just Like Mother tells you all you need to know about what's inside these pages. This is a disturbing, spine-chilling story for the most part, but falls flat in some places.

Maeve and Andrea are close cousins who grew up in a cult run by "mothers." After Maeve escapes, she is adopted by a loving family and tries to have a normal life. She always wonders, however, what happened to her cousin. When they're both adults, Maeve is happy when Andrea finally contacts her. Andrea is a wealthy woman who made her money in the fertility industry. But childhood memories run deep -- this book doesn't have the aforementioned creepy doll face on the cover for no reason. 

While the story itself was horror personified, I felt it didn't go deeply enough into the cult aspect. Who were the mothers? What was the purpose of Boy? There were a lot of questions that left me wondering. 

That being said, it's been a long time since I actually gasped while reading a book, but Just Like Mother made me do so in many places. It's scary, and above all, one could see a story like this happening in real life (but let's hope not).